RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – Changes to how people vote in Rutherford County are on the way.
Next year, residents will be able to vote anywhere in the county and not just at their assigned voting precinct.
State lawmakers passed a bill in 2015 allowing Rutherford County to try out a new a Convenient Vote Center pilot program.
What that simply means is voters now have options, and casting your ballot at your assigned voting precinct could soon be a thing of the past, if the program is proven to be a success.
Because of this, all eyes will be on Rutherford County for the 2018 election.
“It allows them to vote at any polling location on Election Day,” explained Rutherford County Administrator of Elections Alan Farley. “Basically, what we’re doing is we’re taking the concept of early voting and applying it on Election Day.”
Voting precincts will be reduced from 49 to 28 and will be spread equally across the county.
“Under the old format you had one option, a location for you to go vote on Election Day that was assigned – only one. Now, you have 28 options to go vote,” Farley said. “So to me that’s not a reduction, that’s an increase.”
Even though there will be fewer voting precincts, more voting machines will be added to each location.
Some sites will go from three to 10 machines.
“What that allows us to do is to go ahead and consolidate those locations down to fewer sites, take that equipment, and add additional voting machines and registrars to check voters in,” Farley said.
Farley said a vast number of people in Rutherford County work in Nashville, and traffic is a nightmare.
The pilot program also takes that into account.
“So people who commute from Rutherford County to Nashville have to leave before the polls open, and they are rushing to get back before they close,” he said. “They can stop and vote as soon as they come across the county line.”
It’s also expected to save tax payers about $50,000, according to Farley.
Voters News 2 talked with are all on board.
“I usually early vote, but if I had the option to vote anywhere in the county, I would love that option because you have different work schedules and there’s no telling where you are at the time and you need to vote,” said La Vergne resident Sandy Manson.
“I think that would be a lot more convenient for most people, you know, especially for people who work and all, it would be I think more convenient to be able to vote wherever they’re at,” said Murfreesboro resident Frank Alsup.
Rutherford County is treating next year’s election like a presidential election since the voter turnout is normally higher.
Rutherford County current has 312,000 residents and that number is expected to surpass 510,000 in 2035, according to a Murfreesboro 2035 study.
There are 160,062 registered voters in the county.
State law only requires one voting precinct per every 10,000 voters, so only 17 Convenient Vote Centers are required.
Since there will be 28, Farley said that should eliminate any chances for long lines.
Tennessee Association of County Election Officials pushed for the legislation in the past, so they are watching Rutherford County closely.
If the Convenient Vote Centers pilot program is successful, lawmakers will decide to expand it to other counties in the state.